Left tackle is all Jermon Bushrod has known.
In four seasons at Towson University and nine seasons in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears — the past seven as a starter — Bushrod has always been the guy protecting the quarterback’s blind side.
He doesn’t have that luxury of familiarity with the Dolphins.
With Branden Albert the team’s entrenched left tackle and Ja’Wuan James holding the fort at right tackle, Bushrod has been forced to move to the interior of the offensive line in order to fight for extensive playing time.
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His best chance to make the field: right guard.
“At the end of the day, I was open to coming here, and I understand the positions that we have and guys that we have here,” Bushrod, 31, said. “Wherever I can make my mark and be comfortable, that’s what I’m fighting to do.”
And he has fought throughout his NFL career.
A former fourth-round pick, Bushrod was the starting left tackle during the Saints’ 2009 Super Bowl run. The 6-5, 320-pound lineman also has 96 career starts under his belt and a pair of Pro Bowls to his name.
But he’s returning to the field after limited playing time with the Bears last season after sustaining a concussion in Week 3 against the Seattle Seahawks. Couple that with a right shoulder injury, and Bushrod started just one of the Bears’ final nine games.
“Last year mentally, it was tough for me,” said Bushrod, who did not participate in spring camp while he recovered from shoulder surgery. “But the fact that I was able to contribute, I got hungry again after things didn’t go my way. … I had the urge to keep going.”
He credits Dolphins’ first-year coach Adam Gase in part for that.
The two worked together in Chicago during Bushrod’s injury-riddled 2015 season when Gase was the Bears’ offensive coordinator.
With Bushrod limited for the second half of the season, Gase had to get creative with how he used Bushrod in games.
Bushrod wasn’t starting, but he respected that Gase gave him the chance to continue competing.
Now, Gase is giving him another chance. It’s a new position, but it’s an opportunity nonetheless.
“I’m sure it hasn’t been easy for him,” Gase said. “Just being around him for the last year and some change, I’ve never heard him complain about anything. I appreciate the fact that he’s out here. … He’s working every day, and he’s trying to make sure that he’s going to put his best foot forward.”
The transition from tackle to guard is mostly technical, Bushrod said. As a tackle, he primarily faced speedy defensive lineman and had an extra moment or two to get his feet and hands set.
“But inside, these dudes are strong,” Bushrod said. “Your technique has to be faster. Your footwork has to be faster. Hands have to be more precise. It’s a work in progress.”
Said Gase: “I know being a left tackle for as long as he was, and then moving to the right side in that guard position, that’s got to be tough because that’s a big change for him. But I can tell he’s working at it. He’s really focusing in those individual periods because that’s how he’s going to get kind of that rhythm and get used to doing to what he needs to do within team periods.”
But learning a new position, Bushrod said, isn’t going to be what keeps him off the field.
“This wasn’t going to be an easy road for me,” Bushrod said. “I’m just fighting to embrace that process.”